This morning we head off into Akihabara to hunt for anime and expensive plastic. No seriously, this seems to be what Akihabara is all about. Plastic figurines of famous anime characters line the walls of every store here and I have no idea how or why they sell – but they obviously do. Mandarake is one of THE biggest and most well known anime/manga stores in Akihabara – it is 8 floors of collectables, anime, manga, DVDs, CDs, figurines, collector cards and lord knows what else. It is a veritable rabbit warren. Back out on the street, even your regular little corner agift store is packed to the gills with merchadise in every nook and cranny. Everyone is a bull on the china here, there’s no avoiding it. They have so much merchandise all crammed into such tiny little stores that you can’t help but knock half the products… which is why they are all secured to shelves using clips and hooks and everything swings and moves as you walk through the store.And of course, EVERY store has its adults-only upstairs areas (which are sometimes as many as three or more floors bigger than the floor of Dragonball Z toys and Pokemon plush that attracts people into the place! So much porn! When I wondered out loud, ‘Who actually pays for porn in this day and age?’, the Teenager replied, ‘Well, if you want something specific, you have to pay for it.’ 😮 Gaming and vending machines are everywhere… throw in your yen, and manouvre the dodgy gaming controls for a chance to win an enticing soft yellow squishy thing! 🙂 Or throw in slightly more yen and get a chance to win this off license Pikachu. 🙂 Racks and racks of toy dispensing machines line the streets. They usually take between Y200 and Y500 and dispense a random little plastic toy-in-a-ball. They must be profitable, but I can’t help but wonder who is buying all these toy-in-a-balls? They’re obviously designed to be collectable but still…
This one is a corker – there are five plastic wearable badges in this machine, with one of five cute anime girls on each button which you will get at random… …and on the bottom of the machine are pictures of a man having a sad/tired rough time. We used the Google Translate over the text and basically, it was saying that if you buy this badge, you can escape the drudgery of your everyday life and be happy! Happiness! This little machine is selling escapism and happiness… that’s one helluva badge! Manga stores everywhere. Even more floors of porn… Mr K lost in the back of the porn floors… I didn’t go up, but he said, the higher up the floor the more ‘extreme’ the content gets.Phew after all that searching through figurines and anime and dodging the porn, we stumbled onto the Mocha Cat Cafe. Now I am not a cat person as many of you will know, but the whole concept intrigues me somewhat.. why would you pay to go hang out in a cafe full of cats?
Being a thoroughly modern and quintessentially Japanese experience, we thought we should add it to our day of quintessentially modern Japanese pursuits. A lovely lady helped us with some hand sanitiser, slippers and of course, the Rules (rules? for being around cats?!?) and explained the cost – Y200 for every ten minutes you stay, and you must buy a refillable drink for Y350, so a minimum of Y550 per person to go in and ‘relax with cats’.Inside was a space with a lovely decor, delighfully Japanese’d Christmas Carols playing quietly in the background and a huge anime library where you could sit down and watch some tv while you cuddle some kitties.The anime library – with a huge selection, no doubt designed to keep you in the kitty cafe as long as possible.Cats chillin in their weird little hanging birdcage things… very well fed cats btw. You can feed the cats for an additional Y500.
For 1pm on a Wednesday, it was amazing well patronised. There were quite a few people there, even one lady on her laptop who had obviously settled in for quite a while to get some work done. After, oh I’d say about eight and a half minutes of quality looking-at-cats time (Nope – didn’t pet any, me and cats, meh), we went looking for somewhere for some cheap and cheerful brlunch. It was pretty cold today so we went looking for some small Japanese curry bowls which we thought would fill the bill given we were planning a very late dinner tonight. We came across this place down the road from the cat cafe that looked perfect – nothing on the menu but curry. So in we went. From the pictures on the menu, portions looked perfect for lunch and it was chicken, pork or prawn curry… order your curry and biru from the little machine and go take a seat. We were right about this being a great curry restaurant but not so much on the polite portion sizes. We got huge plates of curry, which I have to admit did not look so appetitisng… but once you tried it, absolutely delicious. Probably the best katsu curry I have ever had. The Teenager was very happy with his wash, probably the first meal we’ve had that filled him up!After I was waiting outside and found out from the signs that this place has prize winning curry in 2015 for some big curry conference/competition – so no wonder it was good. I have no idea what the place was called though. Couldn’t fathom it for love or money. After lunch, we went for a wander into Shibuya, just because we could – to do a bit of shopping and have a look around. Oddly, this slick black store is a Disney Store… and no, I didn’t go in. The retail pain of working the Disney Store over Christmas is still altogether too raw.
Then it was back to Shinjuku for our booking at the Robot Restaurant. When we were in Tokyo two years ago, we had booked tickets to take the then, Small Child, to go see the Robot Restaurant as we thought it would be quite the spectacle for a kid. Unhappily at the time, it was closed for renovations the week we were here. Now, we come back and I thought he’d be over it, but unhappily he still wanted to go. So we duly went and bought tickets.
Let the tacky tacky Japanese game-show/restaurant/cafe thing begin! Right from the front door you get an inkling of what you are in for – more glitter, sequins, neon and mosaic mirror tiles per square inch than you would have thought humanly possible. We were then welcomed into the Guest Waiting Room whereupon it took my eyes a full ten minutes to recover from the visual assault on the senses. It’s like Versace and Las-Vegas-Fat-Elvis had a litter of tattooed, vajazzled love children, and they vomited all over the place in here. This is his, ‘somewhat overwhelmed but trying to be blase about it look’. 😉 Neon ceilings floors and walls, golden seashell glass-topped tables, gilded rose embossed chairs, massive tv screens and oh, so so many mirrors just on every surface. Even the bathroom was a sight to sore the eyes. Then the bell went and it was time to descend into the basement of the building for the show itself. We were treated to quite a few Christmas Carols in the waiting area while we sipped on our freebie sake (which tasted nothing like sake…?) and I was getting concerned that we may actually have been stuck with an entire Christmas themed show… I definitely would NOT have signed up to sit through that. Upon being shown to our seats – the first thing wheeled in front of us? The souvenir cart swiftly followed by a drinks cart. Then it was a few safety rules (keep your hands in, don’t touch the robots, no flash photography) and it would soon be on with the show.
The show was performed in three acts – the first of which involved a lot of drumming, a lot of neon, scantily clad warrior girls and a LOT of screaming at full volume. I have no idea what it was about… but have the vague idea it was some sort of welcome? We then had a fifteen-minute interval where, you guessed it, they tried to sell us more souvenirs and drinks. 🙂 The next vignette appeared to have some sort of post-apocalyptic theme running through it – robots had taken over the earth but the humans were fighting back or some such. It was all a bit obscure, to be honest, and passed in a blur of lights and loud noises.
You may think these photos are out of focus or dodgy, but I like ’em!
Then another intermission/selling opportunity, before a slightly Christmassy themed intro and a feathery jumping birds/tropical bonanza of a finale. I’d stay it doesn’t get weirder than this, but we’re in Japan… and that’s probably way too big a call. 🙂
And yet, through all this noise and lights and pyrotechnics and craziness… these two beside us slept through the lot!
By the way, if anyone is interested in going to this overpriced tourist trap, err, I mean unique Japanese cultural experience – there is a Tourist Information centre at Shinjuku bus station that has tickets for about Y2,000pp cheaper than you can buy online or at the RR. It’s well worth a couple of bucks on the subway to head down there to pick up discount tickets.
After the show, and still reeling somewhat from the experience, we went for a last wander through Shinjuku all lit up and found a late dinner. Of course more sake and another magnificent sashimi platter. *sniff sniff* I’m going to miss the food when we leave.